Remember last week, when the battle lines were drawn in the tussle over York coming in to run the local hospital? Well, this week those battle lines…continue to be drawn. Isobel and Violet yammer on about what’s best for the patients, while an entire room of them sit by and say nothing. Cora declares that she’s in favor of the York takeover, and the Dowager Countess vows to fight until her last breath. Maggie Smith is a treasure, but I’m beginning to hope we see that last breath soon, if only to give her something better to do.
Now that the Carson-Hughes wedding is on, the next question is where the reception will be held. Lord Grantham, in a typical display of well-meaning asshattery, offers to host it in the Downton servants’ hall. An appalled Mary assures Carson that she’ll make sure they’ll have it in the Great Hall. Trouble is, Mrs. Hughes doesn’t want it at Downton at all – on this one day, she wants it to be about her and not the family she serves. With the two most important women in his life at odds, will Carson do something other than purse his lips and look uncomfortable? Probably not. But it was nice to see the show remember the special relationship between Mary and Carson, something it seems to have lost track of in the last few seasons.
Everybody’s Business: Lady Mary Has An Opinion
One of the farmers, Mister Finch, comes to house to speak with the agent, and is thrown for a loop when Mary declares that she is taking over the job now. But Mary confidently knows her way around a pig, and she decides they’ll enter a local competition. This is a busy episode for Mary – not content with entering the pig exhibition and stage managing Carson and Hughes’ wedding, she takes it upon herself to help get Anna pregnant. Way back in Season 3, Mary had secretly gone to a London doctor to improve her chances of conceiving with dear departed Matthew. Now, she brings Anna to the same doctor, who has a simple procedure that he can do to improve Anna’s chances of carrying a baby to term. Anna is overjoyed. Except, given that they decided to not tell Mr. Bates about any of this, he’s totally in the dark. If people on this show didn’t keep secrets from the people they loved, the episodes would be about six minutes long.
The Depressed Under-Butler Market
After learning he’d soon be out of a job, Thomas goes on an interview for a new position as an "assistant butler" – which apparently combines the jobs of butler, valet, footman and chauffeur. It’s like Season 5 of "The Wire" all over again, Thomas – you’re just gonna have to do more with less. Meanwhile, every time Thomas even so much looks at Andy, the footman practically runs screaming from the room. "You’re not a quick learner, are you?" sneers Mrs. Patmore. Thomas tries to stiff-upper-lip the situation, but it’s clearly getting to him.
Last week, Daisy’s outburst in defense of Mr. Mason cost him any chance of holding on to his farm. So Daisy decides to double down on her meddling. After several rounds of servant telephone making sure it’s permissible for Daisy to even speak to the Lady of the house, Daisy asks Cora to intercede. Cora implies she might have an idea of something. But no matter how many conditionals Cora attaches to the idea, Daisy beams as if the problem has already been solved. Poor Sophie McShera. Sometimes, she’s supposed to play Daisy as a bright spark working diligently to escape her circumstances. Other times, like in this episode, she’s supposed to act as if one of Mrs. Patmore’s heavy pots has fallen on her head.
Spinsters Have More Fun
Edith goes to London to get yelled at by her misogynist jerk of an editor. When she decides to keep her flat in London for herself, Aunt Rosamund warns her that the problem with living alone is that you get too used to it. At this point, wouldn’t Edith be better off living in London with Marigold? If only to keep Mary from finding out the truth. "You’re going to have to tell her one day," Rosamund tells her. "I don’t see why," Edith practically yelps in reply.
More letters from Tom in Boston and Rose in New York. When Mary reads through the lines of Rose’s letter to surmise that she’s pregnant, Edith grouses, "As usual, you add two and two and get fifty-three." Mary is less angered by the shade from her sister, and more shocked that Edith would actually verbalize it.
Mary proposes to bring the children down to Yew Tree Farm to see the pigs – which is a terrible idea since it’s where the Drewes live. You may recall the Drewes from last season, when they adopted Marigold for a time before Edith decided she needed her back, and never mind that Mrs. Drewe had already bonded with the little girl. Everybody wants to object to Mary’s plan, but nobody will. Robert practically holds up a sign saying "Ask me about the secret I’m keeping." If Marigold actually cares about seeing the pigs, we never learn; she’s mute like a proper plot device. But when Mrs. Drewe gets a glimpse of her you can see the baby-napping plans start to form.
On the big day of the competition, while Mary is beaming about Downton’s pigs winning the top prize, Marigold vanishes and everybody panics. It takes Mr. Drewe about six seconds to figure out his wife took the child back to their farm. When they go to retrieve Marigold, Mrs. Drewe barely puts up a fight – Edith may be a punching bag to everyone else, but she far outranks a pig farmer’s wife. Mr. Drewe agrees to find a new farm somewhere else as soon as they can, and Robert pledges to help – he may give his tenants a child to raise and then take it away at his daughter’s whim, but he’s not a monster. Mary is still clueless about the whole affair. And hey – there’s gonna be a vacant farm on their land. If only there was someone else connected with the family who is losing his own farm and needs a new place to take over.
For an episode featuring a child kidnapping, not a whole lot actually happened this week. I was hopeful that having an endpoint to write towards would sharpen the storytelling, but so far that hope is not being borne out.